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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Saturday September 23, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 176) |

Sleep-Over List Spiked by ABC & CBS; NBC Praised Oil Release; Poll: Media Less Fair to Bush

1) ABC and CBS ignored the White House sleep-over list Friday night. NBC's Andrea Mitchell found that donors were awarded with seats to state dinners. FNC reported Hillary gave one couple an overnight as a payoff for donating. CNN downplayed any impropriety: "Only about one guest in four contributed anything and the First Lady's ten biggest donors were not on the guest list." And did guest Rick Kaplan, ex-CNN President, give $2,000?

2) NBC welcomed the Gore-Clinton oil release plan. Tom Brokaw called it "a move that could help consumers" and Mike Jensen relayed how investors and drivers are "happy" that "at least something is being done." NBC cited Bush-Cheney oil "backgrounds."

3) The public realized the media have been more unfair to Bush than Gore, a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll found.


ABC and CBS did not utter a word Friday night about the White House sleep-over list released Friday afternoon. NBC Nightly News aired a full report by Andrea Mitchell, complete with intriguing information about how the White House has awarded seats at state dinners to donors. On the Fox News Channel Rita Cosby uniquely reported that one couple got an overnight stay as a direct payoff for a donation to Hillary's campaign. CNN's Brooks Jackson also provided a full story and MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams replayed Mitchell's piece.

    Instead of informing viewers about who stayed at the White House or Camp David between July 31, 1999 and August 31, 2000, or exploring any connection between the overnights and political donations, ABC's September 22 World News Tonight devoted a lengthy piece to protests in San Francisco against dot com companies for driving up rents in neighborhoods in which they or their employees have located. ABC's only mention during the day of the sleep-over story came in this question posed by Jack Ford to John McCain in a pre-taped interview aired on Friday's Good Morning America: "What about these allegations that the First Lady might have benefitted from sleep-overs in the White House or Camp David, or somehow access given to her campaign supporters? What do you think of that?"

    The CBS Evening News found no time for the guest list, but aired a less-than-pressing feature piece on the link between the ability to process sounds and the ability of kids to learn. CBS ended its show with a minute-and-a-half of "Campaign Comedy" clips from Jay Leno, Craig Kilborn and Jon Stewart.

    As for those who actually reported on the list, CNN's Brooks Jackson downplayed its importance: "Only about one guest in four contributed anything and the First Lady's ten biggest donors were not on the guest list at all." In contrast, NBC Andrea Mitchell emphasized how "40 percent of the sleep-over guests gave a total of $5.5 million to Democratic causes."

    Here are some more details on the CNN, FNC and NBC September 22 stories:

    -- NBC Nightly News. Andrea Mitchell noted 404 people stayed overnight at either the White House or Camp David over 13 months, with one in four giving to Hillary's Senate race. The White House did not provide dates or list which location, White House or Camp David, where the people stayed.

    After a clip of Hillary Clinton maintaining there's nothing to raise questions about, Mitchell pointed out: "An independent analysis for NBC News says 40 percent of the sleep-over guests gave a total of $5.5 million to Democratic causes, including $624,000 to Hillary Clinton's campaign or affiliated committees and $142,000 to Al Gore. And that does not include contributions to the Clintons' legal defense fund."

    Mitchell reminded viewers of how overnights became a controversy after the 1996 campaign and aired a soundbite of Joe Lockhart arguing that it is logical that friends would support you financially.

    Mitchell took issue with that innocent contention: "In fact, Democratic sources say the Clintons have stacked the guests at state dinners and other events with wealthy New Yorkers all year, including 12 percent at Sunday night's dinner for India's Prime Minister, even more at their New Years Eve bash. As for the overnight guests, the White House won't say how often they stayed."
    Larry Makinson, Center for Responsive Politics: "It's a rather sparse bit of information. We have first name and last name and nothing else."

    Mitchell concluded: "All Presidents entertain but the Clintons have brought hospitality to a new level, three times as many overnight guests as the Bush White House in a comparable period. And the pace accelerated after Mrs. Clinton started running for office."

    -- CNN. In a piece run on both Inside Politics and The World Today, Brooks Jackson highlighted overnight stays by Steven Spielberg and wife Kate Capshaw, who gave $30,000 to Hillary or affiliated committees. But, he noted, Hillary's largest donor at $250,000, money manager Jack Dreyfuss, did not stay overnight.

    After reciting some lesser-known overnight names, Jackson stressed: "Only about one guest in four contributed anything and the First Lady's ten biggest donors were not on the guest list at all."

    Jackson cited two news media guests: "Among the guests was former CNN President Rick Kaplan who gave nothing. Former CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite also was a guest, also gave nothing."

    (The Fox News Web site, however, lists Kaplan as having donated $2,000 in either hard or soft money to Hillary's Senate campaign or Democratic Party committees. Saturday's Washington Times also listed Kaplan as a donor based on an analysis completed by the Center for Responsive Politics.)

    Jackson wrapped up by relaying how some who donated only small amounts also stayed overnight nonetheless, specifically, Quincy Jones and Chevy Chase who both contributed only $2,000.

    -- FNC. On Special Report with Brit Hume reporter Rita Cosby highlighted the name Ted Danson before passing along a unique bit of information about Lisa and Richard Perry of New York, whom CNN's Brooks Jackson had cited as donating $58,000: "White House sources say they spent the evening in the Lincoln bedroom last June after Mrs. Clinton called Lisa Perry directly and asked her what she wanted in exchange for her campaign donation and assistance."

    You can view the entire list of names by going to one of these pages:

    Fox News Channel, which lists Rick Kaplan as a donor:


    The Washington Post:


NBC Friday night acknowledged charges that Al Gore's advocacy of a strategic oil release, which President Clinton agreed to do on Friday, may have something to do with politics, but also argued it will be successful in lowering prices. Tom Brokaw called it "a move that could help consumers" and Mike Jensen relayed how investors and drivers are "happy" that "at least something is being done."

    Without mentioning Al Gore's personal financial stake in Occidental Petroleum, NBC's Claire Shipman highlighted how "both Bush and Cheney have oil company backgrounds and oil companies aren't very popular with voters right now."

    Tom Brokaw introduced the story on Friday's NBC Nightly News: "With the high price of oil becoming an ever-larger concern, tonight the Clinton administration announced it would release a significant amount of oil for the strategic oil reserve, a move that could help consumers."

    Mike Jensen summarized what Energy Secretary Bill Richardson announced and how energy analyst John Kilduff said it sent a good signal to the stock market. Noting that the stock market rebounded on Friday, Jensen relayed: "Investors happy and also drivers that at least something is being done."
    Man in front of gas pump: "I felt this is a good thing, gas prices are pretty high and they need to go down."
    Jensen: "But how much will the release of 30 million barrels in a month actually help when the nation uses almost that much in an average day?"
    William O'Grady of A.G. Edwards predicted gas prices will fall 10 to 15 cents, home heating oil will fall 8 to 10 cents in the next eight weeks.

    Jensen concluded: "A benefit for most Americans at the gas pump, and analysts say, for the Clinton administration in the polling booth."

    Next, Claire Shipman handled the campaign angle. After relaying Gore's reasoning, Shipman observed: "Because the amount to be released is limited and because the long term effect is not clear, many see Gore's move as political, an effort to avoid the wrath of angry voters."

    Viewers heard a soundbite from George W. Bush followed by a clip of Gore blaming Congress for the current crisis: "Since 1994 when the takeover of Congress took place by the other group," he argued, they have blocked renewable energy.

    Shipman concluded by hitting both camps: "Political experts say that oil isn't a great issue for either candidate. If prices don't come down voters could easily blame the Clinton-Gore administration. On the other hand both Bush and Cheney have oil company backgrounds and oil companies aren't very popular with voters right now."


The public realizes the media are more hostile to Bush than Gore and more fair to Gore than Bush. On Friday's Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC anchor Tony Snow highlighted a finding of a new Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll of likely voters.

    Asked about media coverage of the campaign, by 71 percent to a measly 17 percent, respondents called it "fair" over "unfair" toward Gore. But just 53 percent considered it "fair" toward Bush while 34 percent labeled it "unfair" toward Bush, twice as many as said it has been unfair for Gore.

    The public is well ahead of journalists in realizing the obvious. -- Brent Baker


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